I may have written about my gratitude practice before, but as we head toward the end of another rocky calendar year and a complicated fall semester, it felt like it was a good idea to remember to find time to be grateful.
Now, I fully admit my journaling practices (yes, that plural is correct) could be considered a bit over the top. I’ve done Julia Cameron’s morning pages on and off since 2003 and very consistently since about this time in 2011. I’ve done some form of journaling at the end of the day or as a way to reflect in one form or another since college. I’ve also kept a day planner of some sort since I was in college, long before planners were so common and well before we kept our calendars on our phones. Recently, I discovered the idea of a commonplace book. (Here are a couple of articles about them:https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/if-you-dont-have-a-commonplace-book-you-re-missing-out-b852136338bf. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/10/technology/personaltech/make-digital-commonplace-book.html Bullet journals are a form of ‘commonplacing’ for some.
Then there’s the idea of a log book that just lists what happens during the day is a new concept for me https://rohdesign.medium.com/logbook-your-2018-6a6310b330f and one I’ve enjoyed playing with recently. I know, I know, it sounds like a lot. It ebbs and flows, some days the page is very full and others not so much. I keep all of this in one place, open on my desk. My to-do list is here and I just track my day as it makes sense to me. Part of the reason it works for me, is that I pick and choose from ideas I find and I feel free to change as needed.
What has all this to do with gratitude, you might reasonably ask. For me it’s about the second practice described in Sustaining Leadership – Paying Attention. Ever gotten to the end of the day and thought, “what the heck happened to the day?” or “I was busy all day, but nothing is checked off my list, just what did I do all day?” I certainly have. Each of these journaling practices helps me to stop and pay attention to what I’m doing and what’s going on around me. That helps me decide whether I’m lost in the hectic flow or working on things that are important to me. Taking the time to put a note in my book helps me stop and breathe. It helps me answer questions like, “Do I like the way I handled that?”, “Did we accomplish what we set out to do?” “Is there a better answer to that question?”, or any number of versions of practicing self-awareness.
Stopping to pay attention to what happens in my day helps me be more present and that helps me do better work. It also helps me practice gratitude. A colleague taught me the idea of writing three things I’m grateful for at the end of the day. I started the practice that day and many years later, I still do this. Often that’s the only journaling I do at the end of the day. And staying present during the day helps me remember all the good that happened, even during the most difficult day.
In looking for articles about practicing gratitude, I learned there are ways to engage in this practice that can be harmful, so as always, we need to notice what works for us and what does not. But I have found that both journaling and a formal, but simple, gratitude practice have been important to helping me stay grounded and healthy over time.
And today, I’ll end this newsletter by listing three things I’m grateful for:
1. I’m grateful to each of you who reads this newsletter.
2. I’m grateful to everyone who trusted me to support their leadership over this past difficult year.
3. I’m grateful that these newsletter essays are often helpful to many of you as you continue the important and challenging work you do every day.